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Despite Warnings, 5.7 Million Flyers Take to the Skies for Thanksgiving

Despite Warnings, 5.7 Million Flyers Take to the Skies for Thanksgiving
Joe Cortez

Although the Centers for Disease Control are asking flyers to spend Thanksgiving at home without large gatherings, flyers are still taking to airports without abandon. Over the six-day period between Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, 2020, TSA checkpoints handled 5.7 million flyers, including two one-million passenger days.

Even though health experts are telling flyers to avoid travel this Thanksgiving, it’s not stopping throngs of flyers from taking to the skies for a holiday at a different destination. Data from the Transportation Security Administration shows over 5.7 million flyers passed through security checkpoints between Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, 2020 – including two days surpassing one million passengers.

Activity Increased Compared to Previous Weeks, But Slow Compared to 2019

On both Nov. 20 and Nov. 22, the TSA processed over 1 million passengers nationwide. It’s the first time the TSA has experienced that many passengers since Oct. 17, 2020, and only the third time the agency has seen that many people in one day since the pandemic began.

The surge at airports is commensurate with consumer data, suggesting that while holiday spending will decrease, domestic travel may be on the rise. A recent report by Piplsay suggests 36 percent of Americans will travel during the holiday season, with 53 percent electing to stay within the United States. However, the numbers are still considerably lower than the beginning of the 2019 holiday season. Over the same dates in 2019, the TSA screened around 14.2 million passengers, or 2.4-times this year’s throughput.

The choice to travel flies in the face of recommendations from both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and new research suggesting aircraft ventilation systems may not be as safe as airlines suggest. On their website, the CDC warns: “Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19,” and asks Americans to postpone travel. “It’s important to talk with the people you live with and your family and friends about the risks of traveling for Thanksgiving,” the agency warns.

Along with the CDC warnings, a new pre-print study from New Zealand suggests that it’s plausible to contract the novel Coronavirus by sharing a cabin with an infected flyer. Using genome sequencing, the research paper concluded that although alternative exposure could be to blame, three passengers who were flying in the same cabin and were exposed to infected persons tested positive “consistent with in-flight transmission.”

More Flyers Buying Travel Insurance Ahead of Trips

Acknowledging that they are taking a risk, more flyers are opting to purchase travel insurance. The Piplsay study notes three-quarters of Americans are worried about trips getting impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which corresponds to a rise in insurance purchases. According to Generali Global Assistance, 47 percent of travelers are opting to purchase travel insurance before they fly.

View Comments (25)


  1. vargha

    November 26, 2020 at 4:56 am

    Better Headline: “5.7 Million Flyers Who Choose Not to Live in Fear Take to the Skies for Thanksgiving”

    I flew to CA and back last weekend. My greatest risk was my time spent in the car.

  2. c502cid

    November 26, 2020 at 7:30 am

    Like Fauci at the ballpark, Newsom at a crowded dinner, and Hancock at the airport, we also get to choose what is right for us and our families. It’s good to hear that 5.7 million travelers prefer not to live in fear.

  3. filegumbo

    November 26, 2020 at 10:04 am

    It’s unfortunate that we (USA) live in a country of infants who lack self-control and the willingness to put the needs of those less fortunate or vulnerable (elderly relatives, those with immune disorders, cancer survivors, transplant patients etc.) above their own selfish impulses.

  4. dbfact

    November 26, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Still a big drop off from 14.2 million last year:-(, but glad to see this. Oh, and #BoycottQantas!

  5. willieron

    November 26, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks for putting others at risk. No, it’s not a personal decision when you involve the health and life of others.

  6. MRM

    November 26, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    Ah, the stupid will never learn – until there’s no more opportunity to do so. Then they’ll be the first to blame everyone else for their troubles.

    And the loop continues…

  7. jjmoore

    November 26, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    5.7MM people that do not bow down to fascist dictator governors, like Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, and many others.

    Gavin…. what a ….. soft…. name for a man, by the way. I don’t take orders from any of these morons.

  8. Tack

    November 26, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    The two comments above, spot on. I can only add that I’ve continued to fly twice a month all year. Life is for living if one desires.

  9. strickerj

    November 26, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Seems reasonable to me… Travel is down significantly vs. last year but it isn’t going to be zero, and those that are traveling appear to be taking the recommendation precautions. The data speak for itself – 75% of cases are adults 18 to 64, and 80% of deaths are those over 65. Very few deaths in young people with no (known) comorbidities. The science now suggests this isn’t really something people need to halt their lives over.

  10. hfb606

    November 26, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    These same people will rant against the government or (insert name) when the Covid numbers spike again. You really can’t fix stupid…

  11. pwd847

    November 27, 2020 at 5:06 am

    I dont think flying is the risky part. Visiting family that may not take this all seriously is the risky part. I still fly and ride amtrak, but I keep to myself at my destinations.

  12. OZFLYER86

    November 27, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    how does flying differ from going to a sporting event ?

    52,500 people 2 1/2 weeks ago in Brisbane Australia at football game. No social distancing whatsoever.

    Social distancing, masks, middle seats empty on aircraft are all a complete waste of time. Just keep the elderly & vulnerable locked up & no one will die.

    Last time I looked online (if you can believe anything online these days) 2.8 million people died in USA in 2019. Wonder if it will be lower this year ?

  13. oh912flyer

    November 28, 2020 at 8:47 am

    No one is putting anyone at risk if you’re not sick.
    Do not asusme everyone around you is sick. And if you do feel that way, perhaps it is you that needs to stay home and cower in fear.

  14. Hawkeyefan

    November 28, 2020 at 10:44 pm

    Hats off to those still trying to live life. For those that do not want to be put at risk, stay home and out of our way.

  15. John Isaac

    November 29, 2020 at 11:59 am

    Please stop saying Americans are stupid and arrogant for pushing back against the government’s dictates. Watch international news sometime—people in Italy, Germany and multiple other nations are pushing back against their government’s lockdown, too. The whole world is tired of this

  16. jjmoore

    November 29, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    The VAST majority of those that die from this virus are older folks with pre-existing conditions. THESE are the people that need to self-isolate and stay away from society until the vaccine is in place. The rest of us (90% of the population) should carry on our lives UNRESTRICTED. None of these stupid face masks that don’t protect anyone from anything. None of these stupid restrictions that put my business at risk and bankrupt the businesses of several of my friends. NONE of this is necessary. For those that are whining about people traveling over Thanksgiving… give me a break. I have flown 60,000 miles during the pandemic, visited my family and friends all over the country… know a few that got the virus and had nothing more serious than fever and cough…….. WHAT IS THE ISSUE!??!?!?!

  17. sfoeuroflyer

    November 30, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    We are born to live our lives. The vulnerable and elderly can choose to isolate themselves; in short they can take responsibility for their lives while we live our lives. So we can get on planes and the vulnerable can make adult decisions to avoid flying, or avoid going to restaurants, or for that matter to avoid contact with others. Is it too much to ask those at risk to control themselves?

  18. FEasy

    December 1, 2020 at 1:34 am

    It’s a dangerous myth that you can isolate “vulnerable people” while others have fun. There is no clear dichotomy. More people are dying because of this. Stop making excuses and start doing your bit.

  19. plancast

    December 1, 2020 at 3:51 am

    Time to move on, as many have said, the vulnerable can isolate until the vaccine is available.

  20. jjmoore

    December 1, 2020 at 9:00 am

    @FEasy … would you be willing to sacrifice your business and livelihood for what you supposedly stand for? …. “doing your bit”…..?

  21. MRM

    December 2, 2020 at 5:27 am

    LOL John! You must has missed the other stories about COVID number in Europe the past 4-5 weeks – or since they don’t fit your narrative, you didn’t include them.

  22. sfoeuroflyer

    December 2, 2020 at 11:26 am

    For FEasy. Does “doing your bit” mean going out of business? Losing your home? Losing your life’s savings? Losing your job? Where does personal responsibility fit in. Of course the vulnerable can make decisions to limit or eliminate entirely contact with others…that’s their duty. Let the rest of us live.

  23. SamirD

    December 4, 2020 at 9:44 am

    My father died from covid Sept 1st. He and I were isolated from January of 2020 with very stringent rules on going out (if we even did), and very rigorous rules on coming in from the outside (all clothes in the wash and a full shower, no exceptions).

    I’m just now starting to process my grief, which is tremendous as my father’s death follows my mother’s last year. My dad and I didn’t even have a chance to process her passing.

    There is something to be said for having to do what is necessary to keep your life from dying–because then even if you’re not dead, you’re still dead. Keeping your business going, making sure things that keep the basics for you and your family are still there–food, shelter, etc.

    And with this activity–any human activity with any interactivity–spreads the virus; just like any other virus. The only way to halt the spread is to stop interacting. But you can’t completely do that because we all do need to go grocery shopping once in a while and take care of other necessities. This activity will spread the virus. This is unavoidable.

    But leisure and other non-essential activities spread this virus unnecessarily–and the result of that is that my father is dead. I have a very strong sense of anger at everyone who unnecessarily spread this virus, who bunch up behind me when I’m getting off a flight, who play in parks in front of my home when 1 in 12 in the county test positive, for those who don’t keep distance. You killed my father.

    The point of limited activity was to limit the spread until we have a cure. No one really got this point from what I’ve seen, and I’ve paid the price for everyone else’s stupidity. My rage that stems from this seems endless.

  24. Grog

    December 9, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    Gotta love all these “Live your life” posts. It reveals just how many people there are who don’t give a single flick about the healthcare workers who have to clean up the messes created by such greed.

    Look around, people! Certain countries contained this by NOT BEING SELFISH.

    I see one specific post that leans on the good ol’ fashioned “Of course, I built this. I built it ALL of it, ALL BY MYSELF” stance. That’s a popular stance to take when you can’t see beyond the rim of your own plate at what others in society endure in order to create and maintain the environment in which you flourish.

  25. volabam

    January 2, 2021 at 7:31 am

    Well, it’s been a month and a half now. Where are the refrigerator trucks full of dead bodies from this terrible disregard of cOvID sAfEty?

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